New Zealand omit Owen Franks from Rugby World Cup squad

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A recent drop in form has seen Northampton Saints prop Owen Franks miss out on selection as New Zealand named the squad tasked to win an unprecedented third straight Rugby World Cup.

Franks, 31, will not contest his third tournament in Japan this year after a poor showing in his final season for the Canterbury Crusaders before signing with the Premiership Rugby side.

The tighthead, who has played 108 Tests for his country, was replaced in the front row by 24-year-old Atu Moli of the Waikato Chiefs.

Powerful centre Ngani Laumape, 26, and experienced back-rower Liam Squire, 28, also missed out on spots on the plane.

Coach Steve Hansen preferred four centres ahead of Laumape – Anton Lienert-Brown, Sonny Bill Williams, Jack Goodhue and Ryan Crotty – with the latter three picked despite recent injuries.

Squire was not picked after injuries kept him out of Test rugby this year, with Hansen instead selecting one-cap flanker Luke Jacobson.

A dislocated shoulder suffered in New Zealand’s Rugby Championship draw with South Africa means lock Brodie Retallick, 28, will not play in pool matches in Japan but is expected to be passed fit for the knockout stages.

Richie Mo’unga has been named as the All Blacks’ starting fly-half, where the 25-year-old will continue his potent playmaking combination from the previous three Tests with full-back Beauden Barrett.

Interestingly, Hansen has also named three non-specialist fly-halves in centres Ryan Crotty and Jordie Barrett and half-back TJ Perenara.

Back-rower Kieran Read, 33, will lead the squad to his first World Cup as captain, with longstanding utility back Ben Smith, 33, picked as his deputy.

Read, Williams and lock Sam Whitelock will all be participating in their third iteration of rugby’s premier competition, but Hansen has overall preferred youth with 19 of the 31-man squad tournament debutants.

Hansen said: “This Rugby World Cup looks like being the most fiercely-contested yet with a large number of teams all believing they can win.

“This will bring possibly more pressure and expectation on them than ever before and it will be interesting to see who can and who can’t cope with it.”

New Zealand’s tournament begins against South Africa in Yokahama on September 21.

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World Cup is our Everest, says England boss Eddie Jones

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Eddie Jones insists England must continue scaling their Everest as he reflects on the off-field bonding that has helped propel his team into genuine World Cup contention.

Ireland were overwhelmed 57-15 at Twickenham on Saturday in a victory that sent records tumbling as a highest number of tries and points scored against their Six Nations rivals also contributed to the greatest winning margin.

A mighty performance issued a statement with one last warm-up Test remaining – against Italy in Newcastle on Friday week – before the squad departs for Japan on September 8.

Having been involved in four previous World Cups, Jones compares preparation for the tournament to climbing a mountain.

And critical to reaching their current position has been the social events held at a recent training camp in Treviso that may have seen Mike Brown and Ben Te’o lock horns, but was invaluable for others.

“You have ideas in your head but you never know exactly where you need to be because you don’t know where the opposition are,” Jones said.

“If we’re at the bottom of Mount Everest, we’ve got to plan to be at base camp three by now, but if everyone else is at base camp five, then your plan is wrong.

“You’ve got to keep evaluating, keep looking. The only thing you do know is that you’ve got to keep going forward and that’s hard.

“It’s like climbing a mountain, the higher you get, the more uncomfortable it gets, the ground gets shaky, your ears start to burn, your nose starts to run.

“And that’s where we’re getting into that territory because we’ve got to push it forward again.

“For an England side that is quite a difficult thing because you’ve got 12 clubs that all have different philosophies and the players are employed by the clubs. If someone pays you money, you’re loyal to that club.

“To have time together as a team and for them to work out differences for a better relationship is massive for us.”

England return to Treviso this week for the second of their two ‘heat camps’, which Jones insists will be like a “mini pre-season” as he prepares to raise the intensity once more, declaring “it’s the only way we can get better”.

An eight-try demolition of Ireland – considered fellow title contenders – has set minds racing over what could unfold this autumn, but number eight Billy Vunipola knows what must happen next to justify the hype.

“I would like to see that performance away from home. That is the biggest thing for me. I have said it to Eddie in the changing rooms,” Vunipola said.

“It’s something we need to start doing away from Twickenham. That is the biggest challenge next, going to Japan and doing it away from all our fans and the comforts of our home changing room.

“Our next game is against Italy but our biggest game is against Tonga. We need to put out performances like Ireland more consistently.”

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Owen Farrell warns England can still get better after hammering Ireland

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Owen Farrell reflected on England’s crushing 57-15 victory over Ireland that saw records tumble at Twickenham by declaring the best is yet to come.

A stunning triumph in the third of four World Cup warm-up Tests signalled that Eddie Jones’ men are genuine title contenders when the global showpiece opens in Tokyo on September 20.

Awful Ireland leaked eight tries – their highest against England – and also collapsed to their heaviest defeat and conceded the largest number of points against their Six Nations rivals.

“It felt good. It’s a step in the right direction. The most pleasing thing is that our best stuff is still in front of us,” captain Farrell said.

“We feel like we are going in the right direction and are building towards something. This is another step along. It feels like there is a lot more in us.”

Lions centre Manu Tuilagi was named man of the match after a blockbusting display notable for a series of rampaging runs to which Ireland’s feeble defence had no answer.

“Manu’s in a good place, he’s got a smile on his face. He makes coffee for everyone every day except me so I’ve got to put my order in a bit earlier,” head coach Eddie Jones said.

“He’s getting fitter. He’s about 80 per cent fit at the moment – we’ve still got a little bit left to go with him and when he gets there he’ll be a handful.

“One of his greatest attributes is people like to play with him. It’s scary if you have to mark him.”

The only cloud over the performance was Mako Vunipola’s departure near the end with a recurrence of a hamstring injury.

Vunipola was making his return after four months on the sidelines but his appearance in the second half lasted just 17 minutes.

“Mako just got bit of a twinge and it was more of a precaution to take him off. Obviously he’ll be investigated fully,” Jones said.

Ireland boss Joe Schmidt admitted his side were “dishevelled” and challenged his players to shape up – fast.

“It was a litany of mistakes from us to be honest, we were dishevelled,” said Schmidt.

“We didn’t get our set-piece going, didn’t really scavenge as well as we would have liked. We fell off 34 tackles, 21 in the first half.

“It was tight in that first quarter, when we led 10-8 there was a bit of promise there. But it was very disappointing.

“We’ve got to be able to defend with 14 men. Just to go in the shed at half-time 22-10, it’s a big difference from 15-10. You’re two scores away then.

“We were underdone, a bit heavy-legged. It doesn’t have to be too much of a margin between two teams for one to be a bit sluggish and the other to be on the top of their game.

“I know we can get better than that, I know we have to. The players will take responsibility to do everything they can to turn it around next week and build from that because what really matters is in four weeks’ time (the World Cup opener against Scotland).”

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